Friday, February 2, 2018
The Brontosaurus runs amuck in London the silent fantasy film The Lost World (1925).
The film largely follows the novel, with one major change: Instead of bringing a pterodactyl to London, they bring the Thunder-Lizard. It then proceeds to be pretty unhappy living in the "urban jungle".
Willis O'Brien did the stop-motion animation for the film, which contains action sequences, choreography, and characterization which is shamefully plagiarized in a hundred films since (including all the Jurassic Park films).
In its original release, The Lost World was a ten-reel, 108-minute movie. Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930l. His widow, Jean Leckie Doyle, inherited the rights to his stories. She entered into an agreement with First National Pictures to withdraw The Lost World from circulation. All known prints and negatives were then destroyed. Only a five-reel version of the film survived, which First National was permitted to rent to charities and churches.
The cut footage was thought lost, but in 1997 a more complete print was found in the Czech National Film Archive. Some scenes or portions of scenes are still missing, however.
In 1999, the George Eastman House restored the film using the Czech National Film Archive print. It was incomplete, missing the opening introduction with Arthur Conan Doyle sitting at his desk and missing a scene with cannibals. Oddly, some sequences (of which footage existed) were left out.
In 2000, David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates and Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films created an even more complete version. They used elements which included the 35mm Czech print, some trailers, a 16mm Kodascope (film of a film screen) print tinted in amber, and a few other elements. Oddly, even this restoration still left out some sequences (of which footage existed).
About 2002, Lobster Films acquired four of the nine reels of a 35mm nitrate copy of the original print. Additional newly-discovered trailer material, some newly-discovered incomplete 16mm prints (in collectors' hands), and a newly-discovered safety print helped to reconstruct almost all of the film. This added an additional eight minutes of footage. Included is footage of Conan Doyle sitting in his garden, introducing the film. (Doyle read from the same script used for the release print, so his intro is the same.) Probably less then two or three minutes of footage remains lost, most of it transitional footage, outtakes from dialogue scenes, and establishing shots. By all accounts, all of O'Brien's stop-motion animation footage has been recovered. The restoration process took nearly a decade to complete, as the resolution on many of the prints was poor and needed extensive work. A blu-ray was finally released in 2013 by Flicker Alley.